The summer 2015 edition of the Detroit Red Wings Top 20 prospects only has a few new names. The club has managed to maintain NHL-ready depth along with some elite talents: pretty impressive given that the Red Wings haven’t had the luxury of picking in the top half of the draft in nearly three decades.
In the last few years, the Wings have had to part ways with stalwarts like Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and head coach Mike Babcock. The team has seen leaders Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk struggle with injury. Somehow the franchise has remained competitive through all of it, adding new talents like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Petr Mrazek and Danny Dekeyser who fit into the style of play the Wings emphasize. Some of the names on this list are bound to impact the franchise as well as the winged wheel keeps rolling – a rare paragon of competency, character and stability in the NHL.
20. (NR) Robbie Russo, D, 6.5 D
Signed as free agent, August 2015
A late addition to the Top 20, Russo brings offensive punch to the back end. He was a standout for Notre Dame, flashing good offensive potential before finally exploding for 41 points in 40 games during his senior season with the Fighting Irish. This progress, coupled with the reality of a crowded New York Islanders depth chart, led to the decision to pursue free agency. Russo certainly offers some upside, as well as another right-handed presence who fits the cluster at just 22 years old.
Despite some academic issues that kept him off the ice for part of the 2013-14 season, Russo is considered a hard worker and shows leadership qualities. Though he doesn’t shy away from the physical game, he’s more of an offensive defenseman in nature and will make his name that way. He’ll fight for time with Grand Rapids of the AHL for the 2015-16 campaign and will need to work on fine-tuning his defensive game if he hopes to progress further.
19. (20) Martin Frk, RW, 6.5 D
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2012
After two professional seasons, Martin Frk has done little to change the perception that his gaudy junior numbers were mainly the product of playing with Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon in Halifax. His lack of skating ability has become an issue. While he thrives in the ECHL, having put up 51 points in 44 games (and 13 more in 14 playoff games), Frk has not become an impact AHL player yet. He is a player with excellent puck skills but he lacks a sound defensive presence. On a deep Griffins squad there is little room for a one-dimensional player. Frk will need to make a case for himself in a big way during the upcoming season.
18. (19) Marek Tvrdon, LW, 6.5 D
Drafted 4th round, 115th overall, 2011
Another winger with quality size at 6’2, Tvrdon isn’t afraid to play physical or get his hands dirty, though he isn’t exactly an aggressive player. He still battles inconsistency, but he’s an excellent skater with good speed, has good instincts and shows a scoring touch.
Tvrdon appeared to finally earn his keep with Grand Rapids after achieving a point-per-game pace in Toledo of the ECHL. It will again be a battle for ice time for Tvrdon in 2015-16 with so many quality players returning to the Griffins. He’ll need to make the most of bottom six minutes and perhaps force the issue so that coaches have no alternative but to offer him more ice time.
17. (14) Tomas Nosek, LW, 6.5 C
Signed as undrafted free agent, June 2014
Since signing with the Red Wings after a breakout 2013-14 with Pardubice of the Czech league, Nosek has been a nice addition to the franchise. He has pro-ready size at 6’2, 209 pounds and a considerable level of skill. He shows good determination and a willingness to go into the dirty areas. He already plays a well-rounded two-way game, an asset that continues to help him as he becomes more familiar with the North American game, and helped him to lead the AHL in plus-minus rating during his rookie season.
Nosek also acquitted himself well on the scoreboard, notching 34 points in 55 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins – plus another seven points in 12 playoff games. He’ll return for the 2015-16 season, looking to earn more minutes and build on his solid freshman campaign. His ceiling is limited, but Nosek has the potential to play in the NHL as a quality third-line scoring winger who plays a responsible defensive game.
16. (NR) Joren van Pottelberghe, G, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 110th overall, 2015
At 6’3, 190 pounds, van Pottelberghe possesses the kind of size that netminders need in today’s NHL. He doesn’t have great athleticism, instead using his technique and intelligence to put himself in the proper position to make saves. He already shows a calmness about his game that allows him to instantly forget about a goal and move on to the next play.
The Red Wings, with Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard manning the pipes in the NHL, have no need to rush van Pottelberghe. He will likely spend the next few seasons in Europe, refining his game and adding a little size. He is not an outstanding prospect, but van Pottelberghe definitely has some positive indicators and provides depth to the weakest part of the Wings’ system.
15. (16) Dominic Turgeon, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2014
The son of 1,000-point NHLer Pierre Turgeon, one would assume that Dominic would be offensively adept like his old man. That hasn’t been the case so far, as Dominic has played more of a shutdown defensive role for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. It’s not that Turgeon doesn’t have good offensive skills, but with such quality depth ahead of him (Winnipeg prospects Nic Petan and Chase De Leo and Columbus prospects Oliver Bjorkstrand and Paul Bittner), he was often relegated to a support role.
Turgeon has expressed a desire to take on a larger offensive role in the future and may get the chance as he returns to the Winterhawks for the 2015-16 season. Already a good skater with excellent defensive skills, a big offensive season from Turgeon would go a long way towards shooting up up the list of Red Wings prospects and improving his chances of making the Red Wings down the road.
14. (17) Jake Paterson, G, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 80th overall, 2012
With somewhat average size at 6’1, 185 pounds, Paterson uses his strong athleticism to make stops, turning in highlight-reel saves from time to time. He has gotten better at challenging shooters, but can become too reliant on his quickness to make up for any lapses.
Paterson, after spending the last three seasons in the OHL is ready to make the jump to the professional level. He’ll have healthy competition in Grand Rapids and, if there aren’t many opportunities for him to start, could see time in the ECHL in 2015-16. He has the ability to become a quality netminder in the NHL, but he needs to show that he can perform consistently as a pro before that becomes even a remote possibility.
13. (9) Landon Ferraro, C, 6.5 C
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2009
The son of former NHL star (and current analyst) Ray Ferraro, Landon has been a quality two-way performer for Grand Rapids the last several seasons. Offensively he’s intriguing, having shown somewhat consistent ability to put the puck in the net, but lacking outstanding offensive skills. He has the ability to be a quality defensive center, with good tenacity and strength to go along with his speed.
Ferraro will return to Grand Rapids for the 2015-16 season, his fifth with the team. It’s getting to a point where if Ferraro is going to make the jump to the NHL, it is going to be soon. He has good overall abilities, but could be best served as a third-line center option on the NHL level should he make it there. Look for him in a potential injury call up spot this season.
12. (NR) Vili Saarijarvi, D, 7.0 D
Drafted 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2015
Like Joe Hicketts, Saarijarvi is short in stature and big on skill. A converted forward, Saarijarvi has fantastic offensive instincts and even better skating ability, making him a threat to join the rush at any point. His size (5’9, 165 pounds) makes him a liability at times in the defensive zone, but he has shown a penchant for making the quick, smart play. He has all the makings of a power play quarterback, though he’s still very raw in terms of his overall game at this stage.
After making a somewhat successful debut in the USHL in 2014-15, Saarijarvi will make the transition to the OHL, joining the local Flint Firebirds. He’ll need to refine his defensive game and explore just how much he can contribute offensively, but in a few years’ time, he could be in the Brian Rafalski mold of quality defenseman with good offensive potential.
11. (12) Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, 7.0 C
Drafted 2nd round, 58th overall, 2013
Bertuzzi predicates his game on physicality, speed and agitation. He played the role well for the Guelph Storm, getting under the skin of his opponents at every turn. He’s high-energy, plays with maximum effort and has shown some surprising upside in terms of his offensive ability. Still, his bread and butter are his forechecking and ability to frustrate opponents.
After three less than memorable (and sometimes injury-plagued) offensive seasons with Guelph, Bertuzzi exploded for 43 goals and 98 points in 2014-15 while taking on a leadership role as alternate captain. Though it’s not expected that he’ll replicate his offensive efforts going forward, he has the potential to pile up some points with the right linemates. Bertuzzi showed this upside during the Calder Cup playoffs with an outstanding 12 points in 14 games, good for third on the Griffins and 15th for AHL playoff scoring. His first full professional season will be more of a grind, but with that kind of demonstrated ability to play an effective game with intensity, Bertuzzi could see another rise in these rankings.